I purchased an HP 17″ laptop with some software preinstalled in order to save myself some time. Normally I would prefer to buy from Dell, but this was the only 17″ machine that I could find with the latest generation (3rd; “Ivy Bridge”) of Intel CPUs.
The computer arrived in good shape, but once opened the purchased software was nowhere to be found, except for Microsoft Office, which was on the hard drive but demanding a product key. HP has invested heavily in a support application that enables their technicians to see everything on the hard drive. I opened a chat session and authorized HP to look at everything on the hard drive. Unfortunately the folks on the other end of this have no way to look up orders, apparently, and the hapless fellow had no clue as to whether or not purchased software should be preinstalled or not. He gave me a phone number to call.
I called the 888 number and waited for my turn. The woman who answered said that the purchased software should be on the hard drive. In fact, it was on the hard drive, she asserted (though she did not have access to the fancy support app that would have enabled her to see the hard drive). I pointed out that was nothing in the Adobe folder under “Program Files” other than Reader. If Photoshop Elements was on here, where was it hiding on the disk? She continued to assert that all of the software paid for was there and when I asked to be transferred to someone more familiar with Microsoft Windows she dumped me into HP’s tech support queue.
I called the same 888 number again and got someone different on the phone. He also had no access to my hard drive, but believed me when I said that the software was not there and that Office was demanding an activation key. He said that this case was being escalated to the highest priority available and that I would be called back by someone from HP within two business days (i.e., on Wednesday of next week, given that Monday is a holiday). I said “Given that I need an activation key, wouldn’t it be simpler for you to have someone email it to me?” That, apparently, is not an option.
My attempt to save myself some time delayed my usage of the software by at least a week (I could have purchased all of these things for download and activated immediately) and will cost me at least two hours of phone and online chat with HP.
More interestingly, I think this shows one reason why economic growth isn’t hugely accelerated by clever technology such as the latest Intel chips or HP’s fancy “look at the customer’s hard disk” support application. The fancy technology is eventually put into the hands of the same workers who made a mess of the old stuff.